"Unsung Heroes" of Lutheran Medical Center
Well-deserved recognition and praise are given to our physicians, nurses and other clinical staff who provide direct care for our patients. However, there are hundreds of behind-the-scenes caregivers who play a vital role in making sure those caregivers have everything they need to provide the world-class care for which we are known. From Nutrition Services and EVS to Spiritual Care and Patient Access, these are the “unsung heroes'' of Lutheran Medical Center.
Lutheran’s Patient Access team is comprised of approximately 50 caregivers located in three unique areas throughout the hospital – the Main Entrance, Emergency Department and the Cancer Center at Red Rocks Medical Center. Patient Access is responsible for checking in or admitting every patient who enters the hospital while ensuring they stay on schedule and get to their appointments.
Beyond registration and check-in, the team verifies insurance and runs pay estimates for every patient that walks through the door to ensure transparency and that the patient does not receive a surprise bill. They make sure to get and enter the correct insurance information so patients don't have to worry about their claim being denied or bills not getting paid. They assist with compliance and consent forms, in-patient notifications for Medicare and regulatory checks.
At the Main Entrance, the team checks in roughly 90-120 patients per day for scheduled outpatient and inpatient appointments. They pride themselves on being the first smiling faces patients see when they walk in the door.
In the Cancer Center, Patient Access plays a unique role because they check in approximately 75-90 patients per day and often see the same people who come in two to three times a week, so they’re able to get to know many of them.
In the Emergency Department, the team goes through the same process; however, it is a higher level of intensity given the nature and volume of many of the visits. They coordinate patients for the 64 Emergency Department rooms, as well as the behavioral health unit.
“It takes a certain person to work on the ED side of things,” said Martin Escoto, manager of Patient Access. “Lutheran’s Emergency Department gets more patients than any other SCL Health, now Intermountain Healthcare hospital in the Denver metro area. It’s a very busy place with a lot of stress but my team does a great job absorbing it and empowering themselves through those intense moments.”
Martin began his career at Lutheran at the age of 18 as Patient Access associate in the insurance verification department. He left when he was 23 and returned in 2021.
“I used to always hear about the Lutheran culture and 18 years later it’s still here,” said Martin. “Not only do I see it every day, but I really value it. The hospital has changed a lot, but that signature culture has not. It was great to see that when I came back, and I found it to be very comforting.”
The Patient Access team is comprised of tenured and newer caregivers who Martin says bring unique talents and drive to the team. They come from a variety of diverse backgrounds and there is very little turnover in the department. One of Martin’s goals was to promote his team wherever possible into higher positions and help all of them excel in their roles.
“There have been a lot of promotions that were earned and well deserved,” he said. “It became obvious to me that many of the folks on the team were worthy of greater things. My goal is to ensure we’re investing in and cultivating the ‘pipeline’ so we can continue to bring in strong people and help them grow and develop professionally.”
In fact, Martin said his proudest accomplishment was the progressive turnover in his department, meaning members of his team who left their positions have done so because they were promoted to higher positions. “I put a huge emphasis on individuals investing in themselves. They did everything I asked them to do, so the decision to promote them was easy,” he said.
“Patients still see the same friendliness and helpfulness they’ve come to know and expect when they walk into the hospital,” Martin explained. “I’m confident that we’re doing the right thing in the right way for the right reasons. I don’t ever want my staff to feel anxious or stressed coming into work and I hope the patients can see that. This is a healthy and positive environment for patients, staff and everyone else who interacts with our team.”
Martin explained how the most rewarding part of his job is having the confidence that his staff knows what to do in any situation and that they are given enough autonomy to make decisions. The team has created a positive culture that aligns with Lutheran’s mission, vision and values and he enjoys getting to see that every day.
“They’re confident and know they can determine their own future,” he said. “There is a great deal of synergy and collaboration between caregivers and leaders, and we’re all here for each other. We understand that the patients depend on us, but we also depend on each other.”
“My team just gets things done day in and day out and I'm so grateful for them and their dedication to our patients and to the mission,” said Martin. “I think that’s something that sometimes gets lost, and we can all do a better job of saying thank you, myself included. I want everyone to know about the incredible volume of work my staff does and how it impacts the hospital from a compliance and financial standpoint to a patient satisfaction standpoint. They do such a great job that they make my job easy. I’m so grateful for them.”
Our next group of Unsung Heroes is our Environmental Services (EVS) team. EVS provides 24/7 coverage, 365 days a year. EVS services are responsible for cleaning more than one million square feet between the hospital, West Pines and Hospice.
Their mission is to provide a clean and safe environment for everyone who comes into the hospital. Our EVS team is one of only hospitals in the Rocky Mountain region to use all disposable mops and wipes, which is considered best practice. So far in 2022, EVS has cleaned approximately 19,000 rooms and more than 2,500 non-patient bed requests.
There are roughly 75 members of our EVS team, ranging from 18-80 years old. They represent 18 countries across five continents and speak as many as 35 languages.
Many team members have had long careers at the hospital, and our longest tenured caregiver is Bobby Boone, with 44 years of service at Lutheran. Bobby’s wife is a retired Lutheran caregiver, and they were married in our chapel and delivered their baby here too.
“The EVS team has had the lowest employee turnover in the entire Peaks Region for the past four years, and we have some of the lowest EVS turnover in the country,” said Sedin Kurtalija, Senior Director of Guest Services. Sedin oversees Environmental Services, Nutrition Services, Service Response Center and Linen for the hospital, West Pines and Hospice. “People come here not just for a job but to retire here.”
Sedin started off as a patient transporter and does everything he can to support his team by sharing opportunities for people to move up in the organization. “We want to see people grow and if they stay at Lutheran to do it, that’s a huge win for us,” he said.
Something unique about EVS is how close the team is and how many celebrations they take part in. For Cinco De Mayo, they hold an annual salsa competition, and the entire hospital participates and helps decide the winners. They host an annual Guest Services BBQ and created their own Candy Shop in the basement during EVS Week celebrations. Each month they celebrate a new win, from the number of days without an accident/injury to work milestones to potlucks. Every year, management takes each employee to lunch once or twice to allow them to sit down and talk.
“Lutheran is a really special place,” said Sedin. “I’ve had the privilege of working for a few healthcare systems but none of them come close to the family-like environment we have here. We’re all truly integrated into this culture. It doesn’t matter if you’re a housekeeper or a doctor, your value is really appreciated, and everyone plays their part in creating an excellent experience for patients.”
Sedin explained that diversity is extremely important to him because he moved to the United States from Bosnia when he was in fifth grade and both his parents were housekeepers.
“This team is very special because a lot of the folks on my team remind me of my parents,” he said. “A lot of our team members are not fluent in English, and we’ve created a culture that allows them to flourish. One of the first things I did was eliminate the high school diploma requirement because we had so much talent and hardworking people out there who were discouraged from applying because they didn’t have a diploma.”
Many people who have started out as housekeepers at Lutheran have gone on to be leaders, managers or directors and some have moved to the clinical side as OR Techs, CNA’s and patient transporters.
“When I started here in 2017, this department was thought of as a lower-engaged group with a high turnover rate,” Sedin said. “More than half of the employees would come in and leave within the first year. I made it a priority to change that perception and to help people understand what housekeepers mean to the organization and how hard they work.”
The EVS Team at Lutheran has achieved Tier-1 on the Press Ganey Employee Engagement Surveys for the past four consecutive years, setting the bar with the highest engagement scores across the entire Peaks Region. The turnover rates dropped from 52 percent in 2017-2018 to 14.6 percent in 2019 and have continued to decrease every year since.
“When people think about housekeeping, they think about cleaning or disinfecting, but that’s only 50 percent of what we do,” said Sedin. “The other 50 percent is making that human connection with our patients, visitors and caregivers.”
“During the pandemic, our housekeepers oftentimes were the only visitors many of our patients had,” Sedin explained. “Our team plays a critical role because when they go into a room, they’re not discussing the patient’s care plan, pain management or giving them any bad news. They’re not giving them medication or poking them with a needle. When patients see a housekeeper, it’s refreshing because they know they can talk to them about anything they want. Our team provides a gift bag and a wooden rose to every new patient who comes into our hospital. It’s all about that human connection and personal touch. If we help a patient forget that they are in a hospital even for a brief moment, we know that we have made a positive impact on their hospital stay.”
We sometimes forget that the amazing work that our clinical teams do would not be possible without the hardworking and dedicated behind-the-scenes team members here at Lutheran. Thank you to these extraordinary people working in extraordinary times. We are grateful for all that you do!